Ethical Performance
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Nike backs girl power

December 2008

Afghanistan and Nepal will be included next year in the Adolescent Girls Initiative, a Nike-backed project aimed at promoting the economic empowerment of young girls in poor and post-conflict countries.

The World Bank, which is receiving millions of dollars from national governments, has started the project as a new way of engaging with the private sector.

The project was inaugurated at a conference organized by the World Bank and the Nike Foundation to emphasize the importance of investing in girls and using their ability to bring unprecedented social and economic change to their families, communities and countries.

“This collaboration is pioneering an innovative approach to unleashing the future economic power of today’s girls,’ said Mark Parker, president and chief executive of Nike. ‘Every global company should invest in the girl effect. Economists have demonstrated that it is the best possible return on investment. With targeted investments linked to market demand, adolescent girls will reverse cycles of poverty with huge impact on our global economy.’

Robert Zoellick, the World Bank Group president, said at the inauguration: ‘Today, adolescent girls in poor countries are generally better educated than they were 20 years ago. But they remain far behind boys when it comes to the workplace. Investing in adolescent girls is precisely the catalyst poor countries need to overcome poverty. Investing in them is not only fair. It is a smart economic move.’

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s president, said: ‘We want others to join us in expanding this effort to improve the economic future of girls and young women around the world.’

Public and private sector partners that have pledged about $20million (£13.4m) to fund the project, include the Nike Foundation ($3m), Milan city council ($3m), and the governments of Denmark ($5m), Norway ($3m), Sweden ($3m) and the UK ($3m).

The World Bank is now developing partnerships with private sector organizations interested in joining the project, including the Cherie Blair Foundation, Cisco, Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered.

The project is part of the World Bank Group’s gender action plan for increasing women’s economic opportunities by improving their access to the labour market, agricultural land and tools, credit and infrastructure services.

Nike | Asia | Equality

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